Fellowship Christian Church on Leesburg Pike in western Fairfax and its residential neighbors agreed this week to go along with the move by the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals to delay a vote on a controversial proposed expansion of the church until January.
Those who live in the homes immediately adjacent to the church and in the heavily populated Colvin's Glen and Colvin's Forest developments had bitterly opposed the expansion.
The church, which is west of Vienna and east of Reston, has accumulated a long list of violations during the past several years with both the Fairfax zoning administrator and the county's Department of Environmental Management. The church had moved tons of earth from the rear of its building to the site of a water retention facility to make room for a parking lot. The church has now been told by DEM that it will have to move some of that earth once again.
Virginia McGavin, who lives immediately east of the church and who sold the church the land it now occupies, has said that bulldozers had sliced into the land less than 18 inches from her property line, creating hazards. There is a dropoff of about 20 feet straight down from her property to the church land. That dropoff must be corrected, according to the staff report on the proposed church expansion.
The Board of Zoning Appeals this week was forced to delay public hearings on the church's application to build a two-story, 20,000-square-foot addition to its two-story building because of a mistake in mailing out notification of the proposed changes to the required number of nearby property owners. Originally, the BZA suggested moving the date to Oct. 30, but that was ruled out by the opposition and the applicants. A December date was ruled out because of church activities. Both sides finally agreed to a January date.
"I wasn't sure they were going to agree on anything," said one county employe.
The church minister, James Ahlemann, said last week that the church needs the addition for educational purposes and because its congregation is growing. The application also asked the board to approve construction of a large shed and the addition of five acres to the existing seven-acre site.
Churches are allowed to exist in residential neighborhoods in Fairfax under special permits granted by the BZA.
Even though the staff report cited a long list of violations, the staff this week recommended approval of the project, but attached a number of conditions. Many of the conditions involved correcting existing violations.
Several months ago, the church filed a special exception application with the county board of supervisors seeking permission to operate a day care center for 750 children at the site along busy Route 7. The church later withdrew that application. A day care center currently operates in existing facilities.